Understanding Health Insurance in Portugal

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Last updated on December 21, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

Although Portugal has a good public healthcare system, many people, both Portuguese and expats, choose to take out private health insurance as well. It may also be a requirement for your residency visa, for example if you’re moving to Portugal on the D7 visa.

Health insurance isn’t expensive in Portugal. According to ContasPoupanca.pt, the cost is on the lower end of that scale: in 2020, the average Portuguese resident spent €358 per person per year or around €30 per month on private health cover.

I left the US because as a retired firefighter we don’t have access to health insurance until we are 65yo. My wife and I were paying over $1000 a month for health insurance. I feared becoming ill and loosing all we worked for due to the sky high price of any hospital procedure. Here a policy for us is 165 euros a month. I have had an operation in a private hospital, 5 star service. – Comment on Portugalist

You don’t need insurance to visit a private hospital: you can also pay to visit. Seeing a private doctor in Portugal will typically set you back between €50 and €100, but with insurance you normally only pay a fraction of that (known as a co-pay) – say €15. Should you need an operation, the savings are even more significant.

The benefit of using the private system is that you’ll typically be able to see a doctor faster and, in turn, get referred to a specialist faster. On the public system, in comparison, it’s not unusual to wait several months before you get a referral. Private hospitals are also typically more modern and staff are more likely to speak English (and other languages). Many hospitals, such as the CUF chain, allow you select a doctor based on what languages they speak.

If you purchase insurance, you’ll most likely use private hospitals for the majority of your needs but it’s important to realise that you’ll probably still use the public system from time to time. The private system is much smaller than the public system and if you need intensive treatment, you’ll most likely be referred to a doctor on the public system. Should you have a serious accident and need to go to A&E.

What to think about

The following are a few things to think about when deciding which insurance product is right for you.

  • International cover – If you plan to travel and spend a lot of time outside of Portugal, or expect to move in the next few years, you may want to think about a (more expensive) provider that has more of a international focus like Cigna Global
  • Local hospitals – It’s a good idea to look at which providers are accepted at the hospitals, dentists, and other healthcare services that you expect to visit
  • Pregnancy – Residents can give birth for free using the public healthcare system, but many opt for a private hospitals where there’s more privacy and they’re likely to be more looked after
  • Dental – Dental care is not usually covered on the public healthcare system. Visiting a dentist isn’t expensive (it’s around €30-50 for a check-up and clean, for example) but health insurance can significantly cut down costs to a small co-pay, which could be important should you need any major work done
  • Pre-existing – Like health insurers everywhere, most health insurance providers won’t offer cover pre-existing conditions on new policies but may offer cover if you can show you’re already covered elsewhere. Otherwise, MGEN is the most popular option for those with pre-existing conditions
  • Age restrictions – Many insurers will have age restrictions and won’t insure those about 70, so you either need to start your policy before then or find a provider that will

Choosing a Provider

Purchasing health insurance can feel overwhelming, particularly if it’s something you haven’t purchased before, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

Many people start with their bank as banks in Portugal usually offer a discounted health insurance product and many people even choose their bank based on this. While this is probably the easiest option, it’s a good idea to shop around and see what the different options are.

Comparing products yourself can be challenging and it definitely helps to use a broker who can assess the best options based on your needs. Alternatively, you can request individual quotes yourself.

The largest Portuguese providers are:

Other names include:

It’s also possible to purchase from an international provider that offers a health insurance product aimed at expats like Cigna Global or Allianz’ International Health Insurance, but this is typically more expensive than purchasing from a local Portuguese provider and only worthwhile if you want the international benefits.

Medal and MGEN are two of the most popular options for internationals moving to Portugal. MGEN because it doesn’t have age restrictions and it covers pre-existing conditions and Medal because of the discount that’s available to Afpop members.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.